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Veikkaus warns of layoffs as it closes arcades across Finland

3 minutes read
Veikkaus has commenced consultations over temporary lay-offs with up to 800 employees in response to the enforced closure of its retail locations amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Finland’s gambling monopoly said the negotiations will concern staff in point-of-sale functions, with its slot machines and gaming arcades having closed across the country after new government guidelines were issued last week.

Veikkaus said the negotiations concern potential temporary layoffs, rather than permanent personnel cuts. The group said that the layoffs may be full- or part-time staff, and would last for a maximum of 90 days. 

“What counts most to us is the health of our employees and customers,” Jari Heino, SVP of channels and sales, said.

“The coronavirus has driven the entire society to the wall, and the challenges affect us heavily, too. We follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and have closed our slot machines and gaming arcades widely across the country during this and last week. Nobody knows yet when we can reopen them.

“What is important now is that we can enter into a dialogue with the representatives of the personnel, in order to realise the best possible plans and solutions for our employees, customers, and partners.”

The operator began to close locations last week after the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health warned of a “worrying” rise in new cases and hospital admissions, especially around the capital Helsinki.

In the previous week new case numbers rose by 906 to 2,541 across the country, corresponding to a two-week incidence rate of 75.8 cases per 100,000 citizens, up from 30 in the previous week.

The Ministry recommended regional authorities close all high-risk public spaces in regions where case numbers were rising rapidly.

It follows the operator’s earlier shut-down of all land-based gaming from 13 March in the first wave of the pandemic. 

Casinos did not reopen until 26 June, with its land-based slots going back online from 15 July, though this was accompanied by accelerated efforts to reduce the size of its network. Having originally planned to take 3,500 machines offline, it will now take 8,000 slots out of commission by the end of 2020.

In addition, a pilot programme for account-based play, which will require players to register before they can access the slot machines, was expanded last month to more regions, having initially only launched the feature on 100 machines.

The operator has also reduced its maximum weekly loss limit for online lotteries, slots, bingo and table games from €2,000 to €500 during the pandemic. This was originally due to expire on 1 October, but was then extended to the end of the year.

Covid-19 disruption will ultimately reduce the operator’s full-year profits by as much as €300m, Veikkaus said in August.

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